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Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, there is a lot of talk on the left these days about the Senate being a dysfunctional institution. And they are right. For the past few years, the Senate hasn't functioned as it should. The question is, Why? In my view, the answer is quite clear: a majority party that believes it should be able to dictate from above the shape of every single piece of legislation we take up.
The common complaint from the other side, as I understand it, is that because Republicans insist on playing a role in the legislative process around here, we are somehow violating some unspoken rule that says Democrats should always get their way, that we are somehow disturbing the legislative harmony by suggesting we do the kinds of things our constituents want. We have been dealing with this strange view of the Senate in some form or fashion for 5 years but particularly over the past 3.
Here is how it works. Following the lead of our very liberal President, Democratic leaders in the Senate propose some piece of legislation without any Republican input at all. Then Republican amendments are blocked from even being considered. The point in most cases is to draw Republican opposition and ensure that the legislation fails. Democrats then cry obstruction as a way of distracting people from the fact that they basically have given up on governing and done nothing to ensure that our most pressing national problems actually get addressed. Rather than working with us on bipartisan solutions that reflect the concerns and input of our constituents and that therefore have a good chance of actually passing, Democrats blame the other side for obstruction--not only avoiding their own responsibilities as the majority party but handing the President a useful election-year theme on which to run.
What my colleagues and I have been saying for 3 years is that it doesn't have to be this way. Give us an opportunity to play a role in the process and we will work together on bipartisan solutions. Just look at the record. When Democrats blocked all debate and amendments on the Export-Import Bank legislation, it went nowhere. When they agreed to our reasonable requests for input on the bill, that changed. They could have accepted this offer, actually, much earlier, but they didn't because it didn't fit the story line. The same thing on the postal bill--when Democrats blocked all amendments and debate, the bill stalled. When they agreed to a reasonable list of amendments, it passed. The same could be said about trade adjustment assistance, patent reform, FAA reauthorization, the highway bill, unemployment insurance, the doc fix, the payroll tax holiday, and others. It is the same story every time: Poisoned pills are removed, Republican input is allowed, and then things happen.
Republicans have been crystal clear that the Export-Import Bank reauthorization needed some work. Remember, Democrats tried to add it as an amendment to the JOBS Act before the House reached the agreement that enabled it to pass on a bipartisan basis over in the House. But, again, they wanted to do it without giving Senate Republicans a chance to debate or amend on the floor, so it didn't go anywhere. Now that we are being allowed to offer further improvements to the bill, there is a path forward. Republicans fought for the right to make this bill more responsive to the concerns of the American people, who, understandably, want proof that we take our fiscal problems seriously. This is how the Senate is supposed to work, and it has been all too rare over the past several years.
The Founders established the Senate as a place where issues would be resolved through consensus and considered bipartisan debate, so that once that consensus is actually reached, our laws would be stable and we could move on, confident that we had done the right thing.
The Social Security Act of 1935 was approved by all but six Members of the Senate. The Medicare and Medicaid acts of 1965 were approved by all but 21. All but eight Senators voted for the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. The idea in all these cases--and many others--was that on issues of broad national importance, on issues that affect all of us, one party shouldn't be allowed to force its will on the other half of the Nation. Yet, over the past few years, Democrats have felt quite differently.
So I am pleased today to see a departure from the Democratic standard operating procedure on this particular piece of legislation before us. Because they have agreed to allow a reasonable amendment process on this bill--something they objected to last month and then objected again even as recently as last week--this bill will be considered today after debate and votes on amendments aimed at improving it.
There is a lesson here: When both sides have a chance to debate and amend, legislation tends to move. But when the majority refuses any ideas that they didn't come up with, things slow down. Let's hope this new process will stick.
NATIONAL POLICE WEEK
Mr. President, this week we commemorate National Police Week 2012 and pay tribute to the men and women in the law enforcement community for their service and their sacrifice.
In 1962 President Kennedy signed a proclamation which designated May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week in which it falls as Police Week.
During National Police Week, the Nation's Capital welcomes tens of thousands of law enforcement officers to honor those who have fallen in the line of duty. Among those visiting Washington are hundreds of police officers from my home State of Kentucky, and I want to personally welcome them and extend a special-thank you for their service and sacrifice that they make to keep Kentucky's communities and families safe. Your hard work and dedication is unmatched and does not go unnoticed.
Today we honor the approximately 900,000 peace officers across the country as well as the more than 19,000 officers who have lost their lives dating back to the first known line-of-duty death in 1791, including 163 officers who died in 2011 and 36 officers who have been killed thus far in 2012. In addition, this year we are paying tribute to 199 officers who died in previous years but whose acts of courage and sacrifice were not discovered until recently.
It is with great sadness that one of those officers we lost last year was from the Commonwealth--Officer James Philip ``Stumpy'' Stricklen of the Alexandria, KY Police Department.
Officer Stricklen was well respected amongst his peers and a leader within the community. He will be sorely missed.
This week the Nation honors Officer Stricklen, as well as all those police officers that have fallen. I would also like to take a moment to remember the families of the fallen. It is only through supportive families that these men and women were able to dedicate their lives to protecting others. May God continue to look after them and may God continue to protect all those, whose daily work is to protect us.
I hope paying tribute to those who serve and especially those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice reminds all of us of the heroes we have all around us, keeping us safe, each day. I encourage everyone to take a moment this week and going forward to extend a thank you to law enforcement officers who have sworn to protect us and keep our communities safe.
On behalf of myself and my Senate colleagues, thank you to all members of the law enforcement community for your service. You have our deepest admiration and respect.
I yield the floor.
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